Amar a Muerte’s Juliantina Is Your New Favorite Queer Couple

If you’re a queer woman on the internet you probably already know about the new ship of dreams in town, but if you don’t, please allow me to introduce you to Juliantina! Juliantina is the ship name of Juliana and Valentina – a queer couple from the Mexican telenovela Amar a Muerte, which is, essentially, a story about love and destiny, with occasional turmoil and violence. What’s not to love about that combo!

The two women who encompass these characters, Macarena Achaga as Valentina Carvajal and Bárbara López as Juliana Valdes, take the show to another level. Their instant chemistry, from the moment they meet in episode 11, sets the tone for the entire telenovela. Destiny and ultimately the love that blossoms between the two supersedes, and transcends, the very idea of how love works! From instant best friends to lovers, Amar a Muerte get’s Juliantina’s story right! And for a Mexican telenovela to do just that is a feat in itself, since Mexico, like most Latin American countries, is very religious. To have a network put this kind of love story on air — not just as a ploy for ratings, but as an actual story line — is amazing.

Here’s a quick backstory of the two: Juliantina began as a friendship. Juliana is the daughter of a hitman who is on the run from the cartel that hired him. Juliana and her mom, Lupita, moved to Mexico, broke yet determined to get away from the cartel and to start their lives over. Valentina, is the daughter of a successful, rich, and powerful media mogul. Upon her father’s murder, she spirals into a deep depression with alcohol as her coping mechanism.

It’s Juliana who first sets eyes on Valentina. She’s walking with her mother, talking about finding a job, and right as they’re crossing the street, Valentina walks by with her very unsupportive, full of himself, selfish boyfriend, Lucho (but I digress). Juliana, immediately noticing how sad and despondent Valentina looks, can’t help but stare at Val. At this initial quick sighting from Juliana’s perspective, you can sense the beginning of an attraction. However, it’s not until the meeting in the park that the deal is really sealed.

Valentina is sitting on the bench, crying, lamenting over her father’s death and Juliana, remembering her from earlier, comes over and introduces herself. At that moment, the sparks fly. From their simple introductions to each other, you can feel the chemistry starting to emanate from the screen. The magic of their connection is palpable. From that point on, the audience knows that these two are something, that they are meant to be in each other lives, some way, somehow!

Throughout the show, Juliana and Valentina go through their ups and downs, some more ridiculous than others, as this is a sci-fi telenovela. They go through some real and honest times as well. Homophobia is tackled and brought to the forefront immediately. Amar a Muerte takes the time to deal with the topic. I found it particularly refreshing because it seemed genuine. And this coming from a telenovela was, to say the least, quite shocking to see.

Going back and re-watching the series, I kept revisiting Juliana and Valentina’s first kiss. Juliana’s mother had been kidnapped by the cartel who employed her father. Knowing the stress Juliana was in, Valentina invites her over to her house, to relax and go in the pool and to get away for a moment. As they’re in the pool, Valentina reiterates that this will be a good time to take Juliana’s mind off of what is happening. She asks her if she wants to practice her floating again (this was not Juliana’s first time in Valentina’s pool). Juliana reluctantly agrees and Valentina helps her stay afloat. She floats next to Juliana for a few seconds before a laughing fit ensues.

After they both come up out of the water, still laughing, Valentina has an intense look towards Juliana. They both pull closer to each other. They slowly make contact. The kiss starts off awkward before the connection quickly takes over! The entire scene is about two-and-a-half minutes, but the kiss only lasts for a few seconds. However, in those few seconds, nothing short of pure magic happens on screen. In that moment the show turns a major corner from being just another telenovela to being a major game changer in the telenovela world. I’m not sure the show or the actresses knew, at that moment, what they did and what was about to happen — the moment Juliantina became a worldwide sensation/phenomenon.

From the slow burn leading up to the kiss to the actual deed, it was by far one of the best first kisses by any couple I have ever seen on screen. It was nervous, slow, tentative, purposeful, intentional. It had so much meaning and power behind it. The very natural, organic way it unfolded was an art in itself.

In the end, Juliantina is not just another queer love story. It has layers. It was written with intention. Their love never comes off as forced or made to seem super sexual. And each kiss, each love scene is done with care and honesty. It all feels genuine and real and, in those moments, engages the audience in a way that makes it all okay, even if it’s not okay in their own lives. To see this on screen was very validating.

Both actresses, Macarena Achaga and Bárbara López, gave it their all with each scene. They left no doubt as to how they wanted to portray these characters: with love, realness, and honesty. It was beautiful to watch. And they are just as amazing off-screen as they are on screen. They’ve taken their roles in LGBTQ history very seriously. They are constantly posting support and love on all their social media outlets and the fans, myself included, have taken to them even more.

In the end, it all boils down to love. Having the freedom to love without labels. To be yourself. Juliantina did that for me. I don’t look at gender as a basis to decide if I am or am not going to fall for a person. Love without limits. Amar a Muerte and Juliantina gave that to me and I will forever be grateful for the show, the writers and these two amazing souls who portray this wonderful relationship.

Juliantina fans have started a campaign for a spin-off, which you can read more about here

Kristy is just a Jersey girl living in her own world, constantly Tweeting into the void about her favorite ships and shows, and enjoying her cafecito bien hecho. Follow her on Twitter.

Kristy has written 1 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. Ah, how great! My friends have been exchanging links with translations (and a lot of exclamation marks) over WhatsApp for weeks! I had a big exam coming up though and already got trapped in 70s Madrid with Luisita and Amelia (Luimelia <3) last month and could not afford another obsession so close to the deadline.
    The exam was last Monday, and I am free for a mental journey to Mexico, so if someone has a link lying around, I‘d be truly thrilled!
    Isn’t it stellar to watch the world coming together through such a simple thing as falling in love, even if it is second hand through tv characters?
    Lots of love from Germany! xoxo

  2. So happy to see coverage of Juliantina on Autostraddle. They are amazing, and have really reached the whole world but they have a special meaning and impact for Mexican and Latin women.

    We grew up watching telenovelas with our mom and Grandma’s, watching a Telenovela give this amazing treatment to a wlw couple is so so important.

  3. Yay! I was hoping Juliantina would show up here eventually. I didn’t get into Amar a Muerte until I saw them coming up on my Tumblr dash. I remember hearing the theme song daily as my family has Univision on at all hours but never giving it a second thought other than “hey, this is a pretty cute song”. I’m so glad that I got into it before it ended as interacting with this crazy fandom has been great. They are super excited and as a group managed to do a clean sweep of awards at Premios TVyNovelas this past weekend. Also, the actresses and cast are the sweetest.

    I’m so proud that Mexican Television is trying to portray LGBT stories. There is another telenovela that also has a gay ship that goes by Aristemo that has also received really high praise and has a passionate fandom. Here’s hoping the Amar a Muerte cast gets a chance to continue this story.

  4. I’m so glad someone finally wrote about them in autostraddle, thank you Kristy!

    I watched the first 30 or so episodes of their story on New Years, while I was staying with my very Mexican family for the holidays. I was surprised at first because usually telenovelas have very low production value, a really bad script and not-so-great acting, but this show, or at least this couple didn’t seem to suffer from those problems. Then I thought, they’re not gonna let them kiss onscreen, we’re just not there yet. But then they did! Yes, it was a bit censored because of the camera angles and all but I never thought I’d see that on Mexican network tv.

    THEN I thought, “they’re gonna fuck it up”. The show is literally called “Love to Death” so one of them is gonna die and come back in another body or just stay dead. So as you can see I didn’t have much faith in this story, given their record in pretty much every piece of programming I’d seen in my life (Televisa is responsible for so many shitty things in Mexican culture but that’s a post for another day)

    But SOMEHOW they only had one “big” misstep in the whole story, and I didn’t think it was that serious anyway. Basically this story just kept surprising me over and over, and even now I can’t believe it was real.

    I’m also really glad that it opened up a conversation in mainstream Mexican media about same sex relationships. Now you have the usual gossip day time shows talking about Juliantina and their story, you have Macarena and Barbara doing interviews in tabloids that only telenovela-addicted Mexican housewives read!! How cool is that?

    I’m greatful for everyone involved in telling this story, and I hope it’s the beginning of a wave of queer storylines in Mexican tv, because (as we know) representation matters, specially when it’s done as well as a Juliantina.

      • Agreed, the fandom got really snippy about that particular misstep. But I do believe the show handled it very well. Though it could be tough to watch for some, a lot of viewers eventually understood why it happened. Especially in Mexican culture where there is a lot of pressure to live up to the norm. It was a perfect storm, jealousy and rejection from family leads to those kinds of outcomes sometimes. It felt real.

        • Totally! It’s interesting because the writer (or writers, although only one is credited) doesn’t seem to be paritularlg well-read in terms of queer representation, so I’m sure that that misstep was just part of the drama-like nature of the genre.. BUT in hindsight it was actually pretty well done??? Like everything building up to that was utter chaos and so much happened to Juliana, that at the end you can’t help but empathize with her and not blame her for that choice at all. So what I’m saying is, yes it might have been a tropey thing to do, but I at the end of the day it wasn’t done with malice.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful article!

    Juliantina is indeed worldwide sweeping the main awards show by winning 14/15 of them in their nominations leaving no place for any of the other telenovela… It was all from the dedication of the fans (juliantinas) from all around the world but also a way to thank the huge amount of support we received from Macarena and Barbara but also the WHOLE cast (I love this cast seriously) , producers and writers.

    Now we’re hoping for a spin-off but we need to let them know that we’re still here even after the show just finished and that we want more.

    Let’s be loud.

    We already gathered 40k signatures but we need more. Please help us continue this adventure with these beautiful people.

    https://www.change.org/p/eazcarraga-canal-estrellas-bardasano-spin-off-juliantina

    Anyway it was such a joy to see the story of Juliantina unfold and the amazing chemistry the two actresses have. More people need to discover the magic that is this pairing and this show of course. Give it a try you won’t regret it! 😉

  6. I was SO happy to see this article this morning! I feel like I wrote most of the TV team about a month ago and then again after the finale essentially begging Autostraddle to give this show some US coverage. I watch a lot of wlw/queer stuff that is recommended by AS. It is not lost on me the importance of this being from Mexico and the repesentation this is giving the community there. I strongly feel that the story transcends culture and language barriers to be a beautiful story about longing and finding love unexpectedly and and appreciate how it takes its time in doing so.

    It just so happened I came across it by chance from a screen cap on Twitter and decided to give it a watch because the story looked intriguing and the actresses are not so bad on the eyes, either… My Spanish is novice level, at best, so I found some translated videos in English of just the Juliantina story parts on YouTube and then went back on Univision to see the rest of the show in subtitled Spanish. The show in its entirety is actually pretty good if you’ve ever watched other novellas. It has a sci-fi/supernatural component, which at first I though might be ridiculous, but I ended up enjoying. It’s an incredible amount of content to consume if you watch the whole show. It’s like watching 4-5 seasons of a regular show in one big gulp. I just happened to be home recovering from pneumonia so I had some time.

    I appreciate the author’s POV in the article. It’s nice to know that they are a fan as well. It truly comes through in the writing. This is such a great show… whichever way you choose to check it out, you won’t be disappointed and you will be left wanting more Ike the rest of us.

    Repeating what the author said: If you enjoy and crave more, please be sure to sign the petition for a spin off here: https://www.change.org/p/eazcarraga-canal-estrellas-bardasano-spin-off-juliantina
    I think I signed at like 7K something so it’s been awesome to watch this grow!

  7. Kriisty Soto you nailed it!

    The story between these two is so well written and the actresses are now amassing a major international presence and following. Amar a Muerte literally won all but one of the tv soap awards they were nominated for in Mexico due to their fan base

    Hopefully we get either a second season of Amar A Muerte or the spin off!

    The entire show is worth a watch but the girls stories in particular have now been spliced and consumed on youtube.

    Highly recommend it!

  8. Yes! I was so happy to see this headline, I saw a tweet about them like a month ago and was like ?????? how do I get in on this????? and this is the perfect answer, thank you so much!!

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